"The Return Of The Giant Hogweed" as written by Peter Gabriel, Anthony Banks, Steven Hackett and Michael Rutherford....
Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them,
Around every river and canal their power is growing.
Stamp them out!
We must destroy them,
They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odour.

They are invincible,
They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering.

Long ago in the Russian hills,
A Victorian explorer found the regal Hogweed by a marsh,
He captured it and brought it home.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
He came home to London,
And made a present of the Hogweed to the Royal Gardens at Kew.

Waste no time!
They are approaching.
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
Strike by night!
They are defenceless.
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.

Still they're invincible,
Still they're immune to all our herbicidal battering.

Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens,
In which they innocently planted the Giant Hogweed throughout the land.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
Soon they escaped, spreading their seed,
Preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race.

Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your Hogweed hairs
HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANI


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"The Return of the Giant Hogweed" as written by Michael Rutherford Anthony Banks

Lyrics © CARLIN AMERICA INC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Return Of The Giant Hogweed song meanings
Add your thoughts

8 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentFrom our brief pastoral respite, our camera of the mind follows the bus for a bit as it ambles out of the village, and floats onwards - eventually letting the bus go and settling on a clump of unlikely looking plants growing near the ditch on the side of the road. They begin to stir, and the music begins to play...

    The really interesting thing about the Giant Hogweed, is that like a lot of Peter Gabriel's lyrics, they are based on something real!

    Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), is a member of the family Apiaceae, native to the Caucasus Region and Central Asia. ("Long ago in the Russian hills") It may reach 2-5 metres (rarely to 7 m) tall. Except for size, it closely resembles Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), Heracleum sosnowskyi or Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica).

    It is further distinguished by a stout, dark reddish-purple stem and spotted leaf stalks that are hollow and produce sturdy bristles. Stems vary from 3-8 cm in diameter, occasionally up to 10 cm. The stem shows a purplish-red pigmentation with raised nodules. Each purple spot on the stem surrounds a hair, and there are large, coarse white hairs at the base of the leaf stalk. The plant has deeply incised compound leaves which grow up to 1-1.7 m in width.("Kill them with your Hogweed hairs")

    Many foreign plants were introduced to Britain in the 19th century, mainly for ornamental reasons. Giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus mountains of southwest Asia. It was brought to Europe by 19th century naturalist explorers (CABI, no date) and subsequently escaped, spreading throughout much of Europe and the UK.
    ("A Victorian explorer found the regal Hogweed by a marsh, He captured it and brought it home.") A few have become aggressively dominant, creating serious problems in some areas. It is now widespread throughout the British Isles especially along riverbanks. ("Around every river and canal their power is growing.") By forming dense stands they can displace native plants and reduce wildlife interests. It has also spread in the northeastern and northwestern United States. It is equally a pernicious invasive species in Germany, France and Belgium, overtaking the local species. It was introduced in France in the 19th century by botanists, much appreciated by beekeepers.

    Once again, the album Nursery Cryme mentions a Victorian theme.

    Giant Hogweed is a phototoxic plant. Its sap can cause phytophotodermatitis (severe skin inflammations) when the skin is exposed to sunlight or to UV-rays. ("They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.") Initially the skin colours red and starts itching. Then blisters form as in burns within 48 hours. They form black or purplish scars, which can last several years. Hospitalisation may become necessary. Presence of minute amounts of sap in the eyes, can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness. These reactions are caused by the presence of linear derivatives of furocoumarin in its leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds. These chemicals can get into the nucleus of the epithelial cells, forming a bond with the DNA, causing the cells to die. The brown colour is caused by the production of melanin by furocoumarins. In Germany, where this plant has become a real nuisance, there were about 16,000 victims in 2003.

    Herbicides such as 2,4-D, TBA, MCPA and dicamba will kill above ground parts but are reportedly not particularly effective on persistent rootstalks. ("They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering.")

    An actual representation of Giant Hogweed is recreated on the back cover of Nursery Cryme, as well as the inside gatefold in the picture that accompanies the lyrics to the song.

    Turn and run!
    Nothing can stop them,
    Around every river and canal their power is growing.
    Stamp them out!
    We must destroy them,
    They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odour.

    They are invincible,
    They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering.

    Long ago in the Russian hills,
    A Victorian explorer found the regal Hogweed by a marsh,
    He captured it and brought it home.
    Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
    Royal beast did not forget.
    He came home to London,
    And made a present of the Hogweed to the Royal Gardens at Kew.

    Waste no time!
    They are approaching.
    Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
    Strike by night!
    They are defenceless.
    They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.

    Still they're invincible,
    Still they're immune to all our herbicidal battering.

    Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens,
    In which they innocently planted the Giant Hogweed throughout the land.
    Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
    Royal beast did not forget.
    Soon they escaped, spreading their seed,
    Preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race.

    The Dance of the Giant Hogweed

    Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
    Human bodies soon will know anger.
    Kill them with your Hogweed hairs
    HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANI
    Giant Hogweed lives

    ADVANCE

    Another side to this seems to be the almsot science-fiction edge that Peter gives to this tale - endowing the Giant Hogweed with more sentient faculties. On almost evry mention of actual Giant Hogweed I can find, it seems there is always the inevitable reference to Triffids.

    The triffid is a highly venomous fictional plant species, the titular antagonist from the 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and also later appears in Simon Clark's novel The Night of the Triffids.

    Triffids were also featured in the 1957 BBC radio dramatization of Wyndham's book, in a considerably altered film which was produced in 1962, and in a more faithful television serial which was produced by the BBC in 1981.

    The name may be related to the Trifid Nebula, a region of star formation originally named by John Herschel because it appeared to have three components, resembling a three-lobed flower in photographs taken in visible light.

    Wyndham hints at but never fully reveals the origin of his triffid species. Twenty or more years prior to the events of The Day of the Triffids, the original "gossamer-slung" triffid seeds, stolen from a Soviet research facility, were dispersed worldwide after the aircraft they were packed in was destroyed at high-altitude during the Cold War.

    Soon after the discovery of the first triffid seeds, the story's scientists learned that their bodies were a potentially lucrative source of protein and natural oils.

    Despite their dangerous nature, it was determined that the value of a triffid outweighed the risks, and people began to cultivate them as a commercial crop. This resulted in triffid seeds being spread all over the world in a comparatively short space of time: within 20 years, triffids were a common crop in numerous countries.

    Though triffids kept by private breeders and collectors had their stings docked for safety reasons, most commercially grown triffids were left with their stings attached, as docking was found to reduce the quality of the oil that they produced.

    This situation persisted for many years, until a burst of light, initially thought to be from a comet, but later speculated to be a high-altitude weapons discharge, blinded much of the human race.
    Without sighted keepers to maintain their fences and to check the tethers that kept them in place, small groups of triffids began escaping from their farms and established wild populations. Urban triffids, with nobody to prevent their stings from regrowing, soon joined them.

    Although slow moving and lacking in intelligence, newly freed triffids found blind humans to be easy targets and began to attack them.

    As starvation, disease, accidents, and infighting further reduce human numbers, the increasingly bold and numerous triffids begin to take over, forcing humans out of the cities and into isolated hamlets and fortified farms in the countryside.

    A final word on this is that Peter Gabriel is a vegetarian, and this could be a fabulous way to vent some veggie frustration at meat eaters by having plants come and eat them.
    Madpropheton December 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHad no idea what the hell this song meant (a friend and I have pondered everything from just drug-induced ravings to the political mess that eventually led to the First World War).

    While searching for the lyrics recently, though, I found this link: ceinfo.unh.edu/News/… - the song, while a bit embellished, is telling an almost literal history of the introduction of the giant hogweed to England, and its spread.
    SirThorethon March 26, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIsn't some of the lyrics missing here?

    "The dance of the giant hogweed

    Mighty hogweed is avenged.
    Human bodies soon will know our anger.
    Kill them with your hogweed hairs
    Heracleum mantegazziani

    Giant hogweed lives"
    olem77on June 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMissing lyrics added :)
    K-nuxXxon June 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSirThoreth, it could still be an analogy for your original ideas.
    inpraiseoffollyon November 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI could definitely see it being about the Nazis, for example.
    inpraiseoffollyon November 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSirToreth is correct - Giant Hogweed is real: my.opera.com/musickna/blog/show.dml/…
    Madpropheton November 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA ripping yarn about a particularly evil species of plant that, having been introduced to Britain in Victorian times, proceeds to try and destroy the human race. A sort of rhododendron with attitude if you will.

    It could be a metaphor for Europeans settling in America or Australia and almost wiping out the indiginous population but probably is just Gabriel's take on The Day of the Triffids.
    proggieon October 30, 2012   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain